If the thought of a regimented eating plan and “time-restricted feeding” makes your stomach churn (or if you want to enjoy your food, no matter what time of day), then you may not want to read on.
A study presented at the Obesity Society’s annual meeting has found that having your dinner before 2pm can reduce hunger cravings for the rest of the day and boost your fat-burning reserves. While it may up the chances of a midnight salvage for scran, it means that you’re likely to be cramming all of your meals in a six-hour window in the name of a better body.
But is it really healthy? The research documented that the plan worked well on animals, but what happened when it came to humans? One of its earliest – and most famous – adopters is Aussie actor Hugh Jackman. To find out, we put a MH writer through Wolverine’s weight plan to see if he could slash fat from his body. Snikt!
Lab Rat Profile
Name: David Morton, fasting sceptic
Challenge: To follow Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine meal plan
Claim: Cut body fat while you bulk up – quickly
When Hugh Jackman snarled his way onto our cover, I had an epiphany of sorts. The men who grace Men’s Health are always in incredible shape, but Jackman, I realised, had what I didn’t know I’d always wanted: size and strength that would be just as useful on the rugby pitch as it is impressive in the mirror; a shape that would suit my naturally ‘blocky’ body type. I wanted to be Hugh, as I’m sure you did.
His Wolverine physique was powered by an eating regime called 16:8 – a form of intermittent fasting (IF) where you eat nothing for 16 hours a day, then cram all your calories into the other eight. It clearly worked for Hugh, so I resolved to follow a 16:8 diet for 10 days to find out if it could for me – and if it will work for you, too.
Research shows there’s more to the diet than mutant pecs. I.F. has been found to reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease (American Society of Clinical Nutrition) and extend your lifespan (Medical Hypotheses) . “Fasting also turns on several very cool biochemical processes,” says nutritional scientist Ben Coomber. “One is apoptosis or autophagy, which is the process of cell death. This means you clean out dead cells and dispose of them, clearing up toxins.” This all sounds rather good.
It doesn’t feel that bad, either. I skip breakfast (cups of coffee are fine) and then tear into half a rotisserie chicken at 11am, with baby spinach and a wholegrain roll. That weighs in at about 800kcal with more than 50g of protein (almost 90% of my RDA). I go to the gym at 1pm, when I would normally eat lunch. I eat again around 3pm: high-street sushi or a sandwich. Dinner is down by 7pm and then the 16-hour stopwatch begins again.
As with so many things in life – haircuts, holidays, pregnancies – 16:8’s success comes down to careful scheduling. If you’re an A-list action hero, your job depends on you staying in shape, and you can afford to work out at midday, every day. This makes the absolute most of the hormonal effect of your fasting period: “When you don’t eat, your muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin,” says Coomber. “So, when you do take on food, the muscle cell is as receptive as possible and you get a much greater anabolic response when you exercise.”
I only have lunch breaks to go to the gym, though, so sacrifice the possible cellular boosts to maintain a more normal day-to-day routine. In fact, my attempts to eat dinner at home with my girlfriend mean that the 16-hour fasting window gets pushed back bit by bit and twice during the test I have to reset the clock in order to avoid eating alone at 11pm.
Nevertheless, at the end of my 10-day experiment I’d knocked down my body fat by nearly 2%. Although not X-Men approved, the results are better than I had predicted. Especially as I didn’t cut out a single food from my daily diet and always felt full.
f you want to lose a bit of excess weight without mucking around, 16:8 is a scientifically sound and simple eating plan to grasp. But if you want to train hard during the week, socialise at the weekend and if you value eating meals with family and friends more than looking like Hugh, you should see it as short-term solution only. IF will kick start your physique – but if you want to build true Wolverine size, you’ll need to make intermittent fasting a regular thing.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health UK.